Path of Exile 3.9 Metamorph Top Builds

Continuing the 3-month content release schedule players have been enjoying for years, the Path of Exile Metamorph League launched on December 13, 2019. It’s a boss-building mechanic which also added item Catalysts, Monster Parts, new Skills and Unique items. Metamorph also a number of skill and Ascendancy adjustments. However, the most impactful change really was the new Conquerors of the Atlas system, which redefined how players engage in end-game mapping and boss spawning.

Links to more than 20 guides for some of the strongest builds in the game can be found below.

Below is a quick snapshot of the buffs, nerfs and other adjustments this league.

BUFFED: Arc (Chain range increased 40%), Soulrend (50% higher duration). LMP does more damage, Chill and Shock now have more impact. SRS has improved targeting.
NERFED: Orb of Storms, Lightning Spire Trap, Onslaught, Smoke Mine and Stormblast Mine have been nerfed (while leveling). Mirage Archer and Point Blank have been nerfed. Minion Movement Speed (Mindless Aggression is now 10%, Ravenous Horde Speed Halved), Feeding Frenzy (10% less damage), Zombies (Slam less damage and often, Base damage reduced 25%) and obtaining a 3rd spectre have been nerfed. Icicle mine damage has been hit very hard.
MORE: Monsters have higher resistances and armor (take less physical damage). Unique monster life increased 10%. Bosses enhanced with more life, skills/attacks.

The biggest mistake GGG made with the launch of Metamorph was requiring players to manually pick up monster parts, but they fixed this roughly a week into the league and changed it so the game would automatically collect the parts as the monsters were slain. This made the Metamorph Mechanic a lot more fun and enjoyable (focusing on the actual boss rather than picking up the pieces). The new Atlas Boss fights also had a number of bugs, many of which have been fixed, however there are still some outstanding issues (crashes and other problems tied to how difficult it is to get the bosses to spawn).

While last league (Blight) was all about Summoners, this league is still a Summoner League because GGG did not nerf Skeletons, which is now the number one skill in the game across the board. Zombies, Spectres and SRS are still quite powerful, just not as much as they were last league. Even though we still see Necromancers dominating the leaderboards, we have a lot more diversity in builds this league.

Numerous new skills were introduced with Metamorph (with a focus on bow skills), but nearly all of them fall short in play and support, with the exception of the new Awakened support gems (which are awesome and insanely expensive). The sad reality is collectively, less than 1% of players are using the new skills (such as Galvanic Arrow, Siege Ballista, etc.). They just don’t perform well enough with the Metamorph bossing mechanic.

Catalysts allow players to add quality to jewelry, with a focus on specific stats; however, I don’t see players embracing this new feature nearly as much as they did with last league’s Anointment system.

Metamorph is all about killing bosses, which made numerous speed farming builds nearly unusable for players that want to kill metamorphs at the end of a map; and the reward for killing high level metas is very, very good. For this reason, it’s important for players to have builds that can not only map well, but kill and survive the impressive variation of mechanics and dangers each dynamically created metamorph presents. The complete 3.9 patch notes can be found here.

In the end, Metamorph is a fun and very challenging league.

Let’s dive into the league!


Skip Straight to the list!

While Skeletons, Zombies and Spectres are dominating, there is a lot more variation in builds this league, which is a good thing. I’ve been playing Metamorph since it released, and so far have taken the below builds to end-game:

  1. Skeleton Necromancer (League starter)
  2. Cremation Necromancer
  3. Siege Ballista Hierophant
  4. Freezing Pulse Totems Hierophant
  5. Arc Mines Sabetour
  6. Bleed Split Arrow/Puncture Gladiator
  7. SRS Necromancer
  8. Soulrend Trickster
  9. Toxic Rain/Caustic Arrow Trickster
  10. Cremation Chieftain
  11. Blade Vortex Poison Assassin
  12. Storm Brand Inquisitor
  13. Vortex Occultist
  14. Bleed Split Arrow/Puncture Champion
  15. Physical Dual Wield Cyclone Champion

Relative to this overview, I want to acknowledge how important play style is. Some people hate totems while others only play totem builds. Some like Melee while others love bow builds. The diversity of PoE is one of its greatest features, but also one of the most complex aspects of the game. While a build may be listed as “best” or “top”, some players may disagree because of the style(s) they prefer – but one thing is assured – the builds listed herein are all rock solid and viable for their represented roles. There are other more powerful builds, but they generally are much more complex, expensive, require respecing, and specific uniques — but the reality is most of these builds don’t provide enough of an advantage to the core requirements to outperform the below recommendations.

The below list was created based on a combination of my personal experience with the builds, the experience and recommendations of my friends and colleagues in PoE, comments and feedback from players in Reddit and the PoE forums, builds run by active PoE streamers taken to end-game, and cross-comparing the top leaderboard builds.

Before we begin, Path of Building is a very important tool to have when following a build guide since many of them share PoB links. Additionally, make sure you have a good loot filter. I personally recommend NeverSink’s Loot Filter.

Getting to maps and farming while surviving and having the ability to do all end-game content are key requirements for each of the recommended builds. This guide does not include ultra expensive builds for players who have accumulated a large amount of currency. This overview is perfect for new players, late league starters, or those who just want to try another build that will work for end-game and is fun.

The Leaderboard and Top Builds

Before I present the list, I want to say something very important: just because it’s on the top list doesn’t mean it’s a “best build”. Many (if not most) of the top players run builds that are designed solely to push 100 and nothing more (farming specific maps and pulling in a minimum XP/h amount); however many of these builds are capable of doing all content (Shaper & Uber Elder), and delving deep. People on the top list are hardcore (play style not HC mode), experienced, and pushing 100 (while also delving) is an art all of its own that generally has no application to the average player – but we can still learn from these players and builds. I also want to elaborate on how I interpreted the top build from the leaderboards. These characters can be found on builds. There are three core categories to consider: Softcore, Hardcore and SSF (and variations of each). Keep in mind those who are 95+ and do not play SSF often group with others (including aura bots), which includes sharing items and maps. This augmentation can misrepresent the viability of an end-game build and its capability to run without a party and reach 100 as quickly as it has. This means SSF is the best indicator of a build’s capability to progress without aura bots and party support. SSF players that push 95+ are a special breed of dedicated folks who usually put 8-12+ hours of game time in each day. These are not average players; but average players can learn from them.

Below are the statistics pulled from the builds top characters in each league subsection. Note many profiles are set to private, so this data is only based on public profiles that have their skills shared with the community. The below list is in order of popularity and use.

Path of Exile 3.9 Metamorph Top Skills List

As we can see, Skeletons, Zombies and Spectres are king this league, with Cyclone mainly being used with CwC (Cospri’s) Ice Nova builds. Vortex and Arc are nearly tied due to their enhanced effect from the buffs to cold and shock mechanics. Mines are the second most popular build with a focus on Arc and Pyroclast (which can 1-shot most Metamorphs up to T15). Chaos skills such as Essence Drain, Toxic Rain and Caustic Arrow are also very popular this league due to their DoT performance, allowing the player to run around and dodge truly dangerous metamorphs. Note Cremation is also growing in popularity due to its DoT and screen-clearing capabilities (and it’s a lot of fun to play).

Path of Exile 3.9 Metamorph Top Ascendancies List

Once again, Necromancers dominate the game with Saboteur’s firmly holding the second place. Once we get into the third ascendancy, things begin to spread out (which is good), supporting a lot of variation in builds.

The follow-up most used skills for Softcore are:

  1. Summon Skeletons
  2. Raise Zombie
  3. Cyclone
  4. Raise Spectre
  5. Vortex
  6. Arc
  7. Ice Nova
  8. Ball Lightning
  9. Toxic Rain
  10. Herald of Agony

The follow-up most used skills for Hardcore are:

  1. Summon Skeletons
  2. Raise Spectre
  3. Raise Zombie
  4. Cyclone
  5. Arc
  6. Vortex
  7. Essence Drain
  8. Herald of Agony
  9. Cremation
  10. Split/Caustic/Explosive Arrow

When it comes to Delving in Softcore, once again, Scourge Arrow Raider is king (overall) with an achieved depth of more than 1,500. However, an Ice Shot Barrage player is currently leading the way with a depth of 1876.

Looking at Delving in Hardcore, it appears players have decided to forego pushing any deep numbers as melee builds are only at 388/450 (Cyclone/HoAG Jugg, Stafford’s Bleed Lacerate).

My Favorite Builds from 3.9 Metamorph

Before I dive into the Top build list from the statics, I wanted to share my favorite builds from Metamorph so far.

  1. The strongest build I played this league was Steelmage’s Cyclone CwC Skeleton Zombie Necromancer. It simply destroys everything in the game (including Metamorphs) and is both SSF and HC viable. It’s tanky as all getgo, does a ton of damage with basic gear and delves very well. For me, it’s been the best all around build in the game, and reached level 100 in HCSSF, including killing Awakener 8. Here’s a link to SteelMage’s PoB with notes and multiple leveling trees. The second strongest summoner build I played was Viperesque’s Skeleton Necromancer. Here’s a link to viperesque’s build.
  2. However the most “fun” build I’ve played so far this league is the Split Arrow/Puncture Bleed Bow Gladiator. It’s very strong, melts metamorphs as they try to run to you, and can do all content. I created a PoB based on Mathil’s build; details and a breakdown of skill progression are found in the Notes.
  3. Second to the above Bleed Bow build, the Toxic Rain/Caustic Arrow Trickster hybrid is quite impressive and fun. It clears faster than the SA/Puncture build, but bossing is a bit tougher because you can’t hit the metamorph when it’s off-screen with your TR. Here’s a link to the PoB. Thanks to AudioMan, who was one of the firstto reach level 100 with this awesome build. Details on progression can be found in the Notes section.
  4. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Cremation Necromancer, and it’s very powerful. Here’s a PoB based on Pafi’s build (the first L100 Cremation build this league). The Cremation Chieftain version is quickly growing as the strongest variation in SSF because of its health and regen; I tried it out and it does more damage and is tankier than the necro version, but really requires a Sire of Shards to shine – however the Chieftain is tedious to level since it doesn’t get any damage enhancement skills until the late 20’s or cremation until Library. Here’s a PoB for the Cremation Chieftain complete with a guide in the Notes section.
  5. I really did enjoy SRS this league, and it’s very good at melting bosses and mapping, the only downside is it’s terrible at delving, but boy does it melt the Metamorphs, and it maps faster than Skeletons. So if you don’t care about delving, I’d choose SRS over Skeletons. In my opinion, it’s more fun, too. While angry_roleplayer wrote a great SRS guide, I personally prefer the modified PoB version of Brittleknee’s, which uses Zombies as Meat Shields (check the Notes section).

Top 3.9 Metamorph Builds List

As mentioned, the below list is based upon the Statistics pulled from; not just normal mode, but hardcore as well (which indicates fantastic survival). I will include links to what I consider to be the best build guides, many of which I have used myself.

  1. There are a number of very solid Minion builds capable of doing all game content. While most use a mixture of minions, each build focuses on a different minion type as the primary damage source.
  2. Mines are the second most powerful and overall used build in the game, capable of doing all content. There are a number of different variations, so I’ll cover them here:
    1. Ball Lightning Mines can 1-shot T16 bosses. Here’s bluewelkin’s guide.
    2. Icicle / Pyroclast Mines have great clear and bossing as well. Here’s BeerLeague’s guide.
    3. Arc / Ice Spear Mines are fantastic at clearing and freezing metamorphs. I recommend AnActualHorn’s well-written guide.
    4. Octavian’s Toxic Rain Miner is awesome as well (I ran it last league, and it was his league starter for Metamorph). Here’s a link to his video build guide.
  3. Vortex Occultist is very popular this league because of its survival, cold, and DoT damage (which makes it solid for bossing). It’s also one of the best delvers. However, being CI (Chaos Inoculation) makes it more complex than most builds (not recommended for new players). Ghazzy wrote a solid build guide for those who want to try this build out. There is also a Vortex Trickster version (here’s a build guide link from Gryphenprey), which I played last league and can vouch for being solid and also new player friendly. If somebody wants to do their first Vortex build, I recommend first making a Trickster, then trying an Occultist.
  4. Essence Drain is one of the most popular skills this league due to its bossing (while surviving) potential (DoT and run). I recommend Ghazzy’s Universal Essence Drain / Contagion build guide.
  5. CoC (Cast on Crit) Ice Nova Assassin is very popular this league because of the enhancements with the freezing mechanics. Nikonasty’s Modular CoCpri Ice Nova Assassin build guide is one of the most popular, however a Reddit user (madd-hatter) swears by this PoE Vault Cyclone CoC Ice Nova Assassin Build Guide.
  6. Cremation is also very popular this league because it is a DoT skill that can 1-shot the entire screen. It’s also exceptional at melting metamorph bosses. While I played Pafi’s Necromancer version (PoB), Chieftain has become the most popular version because it’s so tanky, has fire leech, penetration, and ultimately better HC survival than Necro. Here’s a PoB for the Cremation Chieftain complete with a guide in the Notes section.
  7. Bleed Split Arrow / Puncture is awesome, and quickly becoming one of the most popular builds this league. I have a PoB I built (complete with leveling details in the Notes section) based on Mathils build.
  8. Toxic Rain and Caustic Arrow are also both very popular (due to their DoT and run mechanics). I believe the best version is the TR/CA hybrid, based on TheAudioMan’s build (the first to reach 100 with these skills).
  9. Herald of Agony Guardian is also very popular this league because of it’s bossing and survival capabilities. The most popular version of this build is the Herald of Agony and Purity Cyclone Summoner Build Guide by systemplayerlost.

There are definitely other great builds that could have made it on the list, but the above list represents the most popular (and “meta”) builds players are embracing this league.

I hope this list helps the PoE community; here’s to the continued success of Path of Exile and the fantastic job Grinding Gear Games has done with the game!

  1. Thanks David, as usual, for the thorough and in depth summary of the status of the league so far! Very helpful information and appreciate the links.

  2. Hey Thanks for the work (I was waiting for it because you helped me to choose a build in 3.8 with these top build)

    2 questions :

    1/ how is the map clear with the Puncture/split arrow gladiator?

    2/ How much faster is the SrS vs skeletons when it comes to Mapping? I expect the real downside (except delving) is survivability

    Currently playing Summoner skeletons and while it’s strong, I feel it’s a bit too slow, not “zoom zoom” enough.

  3. You’re very welcome – thanks for the support!

    The map clear for the SA/Puncture Gladiator is VERY good (surprisingly good). It delves like a dream too because everything explodes.

    SRS is a good 50% faster than Skeletons when mapping with speed jewelry on (possibly a bit faster). And it does melt bosses, but is rather squishy compared to Skeletons. SRS will also fly off screen and kill things; I’d say it’s king of Blight maps too.

  4. Great info here, thanks!
    Got a question though, with the sea of Necromancer builds, I have a hard time choosing which, I see you put viperesque build as one of your favorites, but others are mentioned as the “top builds for 3.9”. How does the viperesque build compare to the top builds, if you know? 🙂

  5. Yes, if I recall, Viper’s build is top tier (I’d have to re-review the skeleton builds for current max meta to be sure). But even if it’s just 80-90% once you get to level 90+ you can re-review and make whatever skill adjustments are necessary. Shouldn’t be an issue. Good luck, and let me know if you find a build that you believe works better than Viper’s!

  6. David. What would you say is the best Delve build right now for someone who has never delved before? I’m not looking at reaching insane depths just something fun, efficient, good surviviabilty, decent at farming that is decently budgeted (maybe 5ex or less…push it to 10ex if need be)?

  7. All around, it’s probably Skeletons (for all content, including delve). For HC I’d vote either Bleed Lacerate Block or Vortex. Another consideration is Steelmage and Dan’s minion build (which I added a link to in the guide). I hope this helps!

  8. Hi david,

    me and my friend have managed to build up a bunch of exalts and intend to play aura/dps togheter from now on. however what is good to run with aurabot ? ice shot ? bv ? something that clears even faster ? i’d love to hear your thought on how we can gain the most out of clear speed/Bossing.

  9. Unfortunately, no Totem Builds made it into the top list because they can’t perform nearly as well as mines and other skills when it comes to the buffed bosses and metamorphs without serious investment. Don’t get me wrong; Freezing Pulse totems (for example) can do all content, they just need a good 20ex+ investment to do so.

  10. Morning Sharx! I actually don’t have any experience with group planning and play in PoE (IMO it really is a single-player game with trading). The forums or PoE subreddit would be the place to ask people who are more experienced in this area. Good luck!

  11. Hey! Cremation necro have avg. zdające 26k, chieftain 50k, its really that good with this dps?

  12. The builds are different; with identical gear, I believe the DPS is around the same. However the Necro has better cast speed and AoE whereas the Chieftain has better survival (with fire leech). I’d say Chieftain for HC and Necro for SC.

  13. SO I am trying the SA/Puncture build and just not feelin it atm. Maybe I’m doing something wrong. Trying to follow the leveling using the POB notes but I’m finding it a bit confusing. Is there a better guide anywhere for this build? It takes me forever to kill bosses with this guy. I am comparing it to my Skelemancer, which is amazing. Currently on A6 where it took me like 10 minutes to kill the Boss on the Cathedral roof top. I want to try something other than spamming skeletons every 3 seconds but if this is what the build is going to be like then I think I’m out.

  14. A bit confused; Puncture destroys bosses while leveling, especially those that move. By A6 you should have at least a 4L Puncture and a solid Physical damage bow with a bleed roll on it. Feel free to post your PoB, but the build is probably one of the most enjoyable leveling builds out there; not sure why you are encountering problems.

  15. I have started PoE this Sunday and i would like to give you a big thanks for what you did here. i cannot tel you how much all your advises and analysis are Helpful for a new player like me.
    Not to say also that all builds that you propose are fantastics and so enjoyable. i have personnaly started the Skelmancer build, i am God now!!

    A big thanks once again from a Parisian Guy, i am now addicted to your site

  16. Hi, just found your site! Thank you for all the effort! I am looking for good Lacerate build guide, preferably written. I have tried following Esoro’s and it is a super video butbi find written guides more accessible. Do you know of any or have you made one with a levelling section? Yes. That is right I’m a noob! Love your site sir!

  17. Thanks for the support! The Lacerate build I have from 3.8 is still solid this league; if you grab the PoB and look in the notes section there’s a detailed overview for leveling. I hope it help – let me know how it goes!

  18. Hey David, First : thank you again for this great work. Second : I hate you. I played Puncture/SA gladiator, managed to do all the endgame content (well most of it : 404 aul not found) and I f**** loved this build. But now I’m ruined : How can I enjoy another build?! You ruined it dude! Puncture/SA is my favourite… for ever and ever now…

    Now fix your mistake plz and recommend me another build 🙂

  19. Heh – it’s awesome – no question! Want to try the Champion variation? It’s tankier!

    Regardless, one of the strongest builds this league is SteelMage’s Cyclone Zombie Skeleton Tankinator!

    Cremation is a ton of fun this league as well; I’ve played both Necro and Chieftain variations – but Bashtart’s looks VERY interesting:

  20. Thank you for your answer. My concern about these builds you mentionned is I feel they are kinda slow.. I gave up my Skellies Summ because of that. I have to go zoom zoom. That’s why I loved the SA/Punc gladiator.

    I was thinking maybe a ranger build, but it seems they are kinda weak this league (bow league btw jk)
    The SB/OOS Trickster seems pretty good too, but the amount of currency is scary…

    What do you think? Any fast build you heard about?

  21. Hey David, still working on the SA/puncture Glad. Trying to improve my dps but I’m kinda stuck right now :/. Can you help me? Here’s my build :

    I got trouble. Trash are getting destroyed easily but if I go to lvl 86+ map Beyond-Modded, It takes awhile to get those bosses down..

    Is it the edge of the build or am I missing something?

  22. Your build looks solid – you can get the Jewel node just below Survivalist and that’ll boost your damage across the board. You SHOULD be able to drop all content in the game with this DPS (it’s higher than 367k). No question L86+ beyond modded maps are going to be tough for any build – I believe the max “real” DPS of this build for single target is around 3M for Puncture, but I’d have to pull Excel up to do the real math since PoB doesn’t properly calculate it. I do think you’re on the edge of the damage for the build – the Jewel will definitely help. You can also pick up Awakened skills which will make a substantial difference. I believe this character currently has the highest puncture damage in the game for the build – check them out for reference:

  23. Hello David.

    I can only confirm that Skelemancer Build is really God ! crazy at least !
    Few questions from the Newbe that i am.
    – very often people are speaking about Budget in a build. What does it concretely means? do i have to spend money? to buy something? in game? how? etc…
    -Does it exist a mod who can organize inventories? its a real pain to do it

    Thank you David and have a wonderful day!

  24. Thanks for the support! I think SteelMage’s necro build is the strongest all-content (including SSF and HC) build currently out there. I just updated the guide to reference the PoB.

    They mean in-game budget, like 10 exalts (10ex) or 2 exalts, etc.

    Inventory can be organized by purchasing custom storage tabs like Currency, Delve, Divination, Maps, etc. I do recommend if you play the game a lot to buy one of each of the core tabs (Currency etc), and then a few Quad tabs. Sadly, there is no auto-sort or organization beyond having the custom tabs for things like Currency. I hope this helps!

  25. Thank you David, this definitively Help.

    Concerning SteelMage’s necro do you see a big difference with the skelemancer build? is it more better? (Endgame..?)

    Looking the steelmage’s PoB, maybe I am wrong but I can see only 34 Points?

    Thank You


  26. Morning Era! There’s actually multiple skill trees built into the PoB. If you look to the lower left of the tree, it probably says “Normal Lab” Click on that and you can select the different trees. They exist to help show the skill progression while leveling. And yes, there’s a big difference between Steel’s build and a normal skelemancer; Steel’s build with the CwC Bone Offering and Meat Shield zombies, etc. is very tanky, and the zombies clear all trash, which means we only need to cast skeletons on bosses. Enjoy!

  27. Hey david thanks for the answer. I got another question : why no ranger at all in this top build. No ranger build good enough for this league?

  28. Ranged Bow builds just don’t perform well this league for “all content” without massive exalt investment; they’re just too squishy with Metamorphs. While you’ll see plenty of bow builds in non-HC, nobody is really surviving at 95+ with bow builds while doing “all content”. It’s just too dangerous. Metamorph has been a great league, but it’s also emphasized the 1-shot problems that PoE has.

  29. It’s very nice contents.
    How’s “Blade Vortex Poison Assassin”?
    Is it good for league starter and end game bossing, blighted map, legion map?

    I feel GGG will nerf necro in next league, so I am starting to plan a new league starter build for next league 🙂

  30. Cremation Chieftain felt underwhelming compared to Necro Summoner. It’s super tanky, but i realized by 90 that Necro Summoner just does everything better and faster with way less currency investment. My Cremation Chieftain had max roll Kaom’s with +1 max res, helm with -9 fire res to enemies, inc fire damage on all gear, fire DoT multi on gloves, anointed Breath of Flames on amulet, and high cast speed from jewels and tree. Still felt relatively weak in terms of overall damage output. Also, self-casting desecrate + cremation + WoC was super tedious until you get high cast speed later on. Fun build, but not one i’d recommend for efficient end-game clearing. Thanks for your guides, will continue trying them out!

  31. I agree completely; Necro Summoner is hands down the strongest build in PoE for investment amount and all factors considered (survival, metamorphs, etc.).

  32. Hey Dave, I’m a veteran try-hard that has never truly finished the endgame. I’ve played every other league on average for the last 3 years and never killed uber elder. Can you think of a build that has high survivability, a simple (ish) setup, with enough damage to get the job done? I’m not a fan of micromanaging tons of minions (especially spectres) so I mostly just want to manage my flasks, press a few buttons, and kill lots of stuff.

  33. Honestly, Steelmage’s Skeleton Zombiemancer is the way to go. One of the strongest builds in the game, easy to play, and fun. Give it a try – I think you will be very happy with the results!

  34. Hi Dave.

    Is there any Arc build you’d recomend? I’m running an Inquisitor with Arc. I love the skill but I’m level 83 and I can’t progress because I die too often in T5 maps and above. Specially killing bosses is a pain because I’m a glass cannon and get killed easily. Any recomendations? . Any advice would me much appreciated.

  35. Probably Arc Mines. The reality is almost all self casters are too squishy for deathless end-game content EXCEPT for Vortex (Occultist CI) because it freezes everything. Are there any other build styles/mechanics you’re interested in or might consider?

  36. Good morning Dear David, hope that all is fine for you. Here in Paris it is the war with this Coronavirus story… good time to stay at home and to enjoy gaming..:)

    I am wondering if you plan for the next chapter to make or adapt such great analysis and advises that you did and provide for Meta Morph.

    Have a very good day


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